A Visionary from the early 20th century — none other than the forgotten strongman and “Respiratory Specialist” Paul von Boeckmann — wishes to save you from “the terrible effects of oxygen starvation” with his “Pneumauxetor”: “a Gymnasium for the Internal Body” used by “Over 23,000” and “Guaranteed to Develop Strong, Healthy Lungs.” Lest you worry about the durability of the Pneumauxetor, please be advised, it’s “Mechanically Perfect.”
I’m not quite sure how one uses a — excuse me, the — Pneumauxetor, because in order to find out, one has to enroll in von Boeckmann’s “system of correspondence instruction,” which, he assures us, is “perfect.” No wonder: he has taught, he says, “over 23,000 persons by correspondence and [he has] long ago overcome all obstacles that might make [his] instructions less comprehensive, and less effective.” By his method, “you obtain permanent strength, permanent wind, permanent endurance.” He guarantees “a gain of not less than 30 cubic inches [in lung capacity for] anyone, young or old, in three months, or [he will give a] refund.” What a bargain!
I purchased von Boeckmann’s pamphlet for but $1.00 at an antique shop in Glen Rose, Texas. Unfortunately, I don’t know how to telephone 532 Bryant in New York, or how to otherwise contact Paul von Boeckmann, who, the pamphlet says, resides at 500 Fifth Avenue in New York.
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Paul? Paul? Paul?
There are many things one can learn for von Boeckmann’s pamphlet. To list but a few direct quotes:
- We all know air is life.
- Exercise does not develop lung power.
- Such knowledge [of breathing gymnastics] can be gained only through experience, and not through theory.
- Always breathe through the nose […] In nose breathing, the air is purified before it reaches the lungs. In mouth breathing, dust and poisonous germs are breathed directly into the delicate lung tissue.
- A woman is as old as she looks, and if she feels old, then she is twice as old as she really is.
Von Boeckmann was a confident man:
It is needless to say that the medical profession as a whole, fully endorses my system. […] Failure is due principally to lack of stick-to-it-iveness. […] As references I might give two banks with which I transact business, and scores of business houses, and well-known physicians. Testimonials I have by the thousands, many of which I have the permission to publish. But I never present testimonials. I am the only one in my profession who has adopted this rule. I object to advertising my business at the expense of my pupils. I object to prospective pupils annoying a grateful patient by a visit, or perhaps a request to permit him to “try the Pneumauxetor.” Furthermore, I cannot believe that at the present day, an intelligent man or woman can be influenced by testimonials.
Lest you infer von Boeckmann was an arrogant man, take into consideration his confession of nervous problems:
My system is especially adapted to persons of a mental or nervous temperament, or, in other words, to those whose brain and nervous system is very large as compared to the capacity of the vital organs. A starved nervous system and a starved body go hand in hand. By strengthening the digestive and assimilative powers, through proper breathing, this abnormal condition can be remedied easily. I stand as an example of what my system can do for one of a nervous temperament. By nature I am as restless as a wolf. My greatest enemy is Hurry. To develop muscle and to retain normal weight under such conditions is usually impossible. Nevertheless, I have succeeded. I am to-day the strongest man of a nervous temperament, all other strong men being either of the motive or the vital temperament. In special feats of strength requiring a powerful grip I am the strongest person, regardless of temperament. I have not learned to control the Nervous System, but I have learned to feed it.
- Height: 6 ft.
- Weight, stripped: 185 lbs.
- Chest, normal: 45 in.
- Neck: 17 in.
- Biceps: 16 in.
- Calf: 16 in.
- Thigh: 25 in.
- Forearm: 15 in.
- Waist, normal: 36 in.
- Arm Span: 6 ft.
- Breathing Capacity: 436 cubic inches, highest registered.
You can witness all the pages of the pamphlet at my flickr site. As best as I can make out, the pamphlet — which is undated — was printed in the late 1910’s. Does anyone have further information on this mysterious Visionary, his mysterious pamphlet and mysterious correspondence course, and above all, does anyone have access to a — excuse me, the — Pneumauxetor?